The 5 Best Maryland Lakes For Swimming

Prettyboy Reservoir in Maryland 1 - Largest Man-Made Lake in Maryland
© Jon Bilous/

Written by Kyler Matthews

Updated: June 28, 2023

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What’s better than swimming to get great exercise while having fun and staying cool with your family and friends during the summer? Swimming is not only a fun activity, but it is a great way to exercise the entire body and improve your fitness. Swimming is also an activity all ages can find ways to enjoy, especially if you visit the best Maryland lakes for swimming!

There are over 100 lakes within the state of Maryland today. Each one of those lakes is, however, a man-made reservoir (either for recreation, utility, or both). Deep Creek Lake, for example — with its nearly 4,000 acres of lake water — powers a hydroelectric dam that has operated since 1925, but also offers recreational activities for residents and vacationers. 

Greenbrier Lake may be Maryland’s best lake for swimming.

So, let’s take a look at five of Maryland’s lakes that are the best lakes for swimming!

Greenbrier Lake (Greenbrier State Park)

Greenbrier Lake Greenbrier State Park Maryland

Greenbrier Lake has a white sandy beach and crystal clear water making it one of the most popular locations for swimming in Maryland.

©Jon Bilous/

This Maryland man-made lake covers 42 acres of freshwater and even has a white sandy beach. So, why does Greenbrier Lake make the list of the top five best lakes for swimming in Maryland? 

  1. For starters, the lake sits within a parkland setting. This offers any and all visitors stunning wildlife scenery to enjoy while swimming. 
  2. The lake has a nice white sandy beach and the depths of the crystal clear waters make it one of the most popular locations for swimming in Maryland!
  3. If, or when you’re done swimming, you can also go hiking, kayaking, camping, canoeing, boating, and even fishing.

Deep Creek Lake (Deep Creek Lake State Park)

Deep Creek Lake in Maryland

Deep Creek Lake is the largest lake in Maryland.

©Infinitum Imagery/

Most Maryland lakes are much smaller than Deep Creek Lake, with many covering less than 50 acres. Deep Creek Lake, on the other hand, is known for being the largest lake in Maryland. It covers nearly 4,000 acres! The park gets its name from the lake. The Youghiogheny Hydroelectric Company created a 1,300-foot-long dam in the 1920s for a hydroelectric project.

So why go swimming at Deep Creek Lake? Is it more than just a hydroelectric dam project? Yes!

  1. With its mile-long shoreline and two swimming beaches, along with 20 miles of trails for hiking and biking, campgrounds, and an enormous Discovery Center, Deep Creek Lake State Park offers year-round activities for everyone.
  2. The natural beauty of Deep Creek Lake is only matched by its diverse wildlife and stunning scenery. With deer, bald eagles, ospreys, black bears, and more, visitors can expect to see a wide range of nature’s creatures while they swim and explore.
  3. It’s a Maryland State Park, so the lake’s water is well-kept, and convenience factors are much more amenable. There are public restrooms, places to stay overnight that are close by, and convenience stores.

Lake Habeeb (Rocky Gap State Park)

Lake Habeeb, Maryland

Lake Habeeb stratifies during the summer months creating deeper zones with cold, oxygenated water.

©Hawkeye Aerial Imaging/

This Maryland lake for swimming has deep waters (a depth of about 74 feet), lush foliage, and plenty of wildlife diversity. What’s fascinating about this lake is that in the summer, the lake stratifies itself. The deeper zones (or parts of the lake) maintain cold, oxygenated water. This allows for a “two-story fishery” or different ecological habitats. Because of this, a variety of habitat types and species are able to thrive under (or in) one lake. So, what about swimming? Why does Lake Habeeb make the list? 

  1. The 243-acre Lake Habeeb has the bluest water in the state. Now, that’s worth going to look at, let alone swimming in it!
  2. The best time to go swimming is during the warm summer months — and not just because it’s warmer. The park only allows swimming from Memorial Day to Labor Day (from 7 a.m. to sunset). 
  3. Another reason Lake Habeeb is in our top five is that during the summer, there are lifeguards on duty. However, due to staffing shortages and other things, the lifeguard hours are subject to shift and change.
  4. There are, however, two amazing swimming beaches that are open to the public. These have access to more amenities provided via the State Park Services. Some of these “amenities” for public use are picnic tables, grills, a playground, trail access, and so much more!
  5. Because Lake Habeeb is located within Rocky Gap State Park, there’s an area created specifically as a “day-use area”. This also provides additional amenity possibilities.

A quick fun fact is that the biologists who study Lake Habeeb’s wildlife ecosystems created concrete habitat structures. They placed these all throughout the lake for the fish locals living there (i.e. for fish habitats to take shape and form naturally). 

Cunningham Falls (Cunningham Falls State Park)

Cunningham Falls, Maryland

Cunningham Falls is the largest of all the cascading waterfalls within Maryland.


Set against the majestic backdrop of the Catoctin Mountains, Cunningham Falls State Park offers two distinct regions — William Houck’s area and the Manor Area. The former is home to a beautiful lake, where one can just sit back and bask in life. There are fun activities such as swimming and visiting the falls, hiking trails, diverse kinds of fishing, and canoeing (just to name a few). What makes Cunningham falls one of the best places in Maryland to go swimming?

  1. Cunningham Falls is located in Maryland’s Cunningham Falls State Park — making this particular place and lake home to the largest of all the cascading waterfalls falling within Maryland state borders.
  2. Lifeguards are usually on watch every day from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. — starting from the weekend before Memorial Day and carrying on through to Labor Day. These are the only months or times that you can go swimming here.
  3. With so many activities such as swimming, visiting the falls, hiking the trails, and diverse kinds of fishing, game, and wildlife — there’s something for everyone to find enjoyment doing, even if they’re not swimming.

Kilgore Falls (Falling Branch Area)

Kilgore Falls Maryland

Kilgore Falls is one of the best swimming holes in Maryland.

©Jon Bilous/

The natural wonder that is the 17-foot-high Kilgore Falls (Maryland’s second-highest vertical drop waterfall) is located in the Falling Branch area of Rocks State Park and is arguably one of the best swimming holes in Maryland. With its deep, crystal-clear ponds and rock-filled rivers, Kilgore Falls makes its way into the top five on our list. And here’s why:

  1. You can bring pets to the Falling Branch area, but you have to keep them on a leash the entire time.
  2. From the waterfalls, there are numerous trails that lead to other sections of the park ranging from rugged terrain to flat paths suitable for leisurely strolls.
  3. The Falling Branch area is a separate 67-acre plot of land that is roughly 5 miles north of the main park. There is, however, an “environmentally sensitive area” that is perfect for serene hiking, and a solid trail that leads back to the waterfalls.
  4. When it comes to swimming, patrons can wade and swim at their own risk. But keep in mind that there are no lifeguards and that the park discourages anyone from leaping from the falls into the creek.
  5. Those interested in visiting Kilgore Falls during summer should be sure to arrive early. During the summer this area gets crowded, especially on hot days and on the weekend. You’ll need a reservation to visit Kilgore Falls on holidays and on weekends from May through Labor Day. 

A Few Things To Remember About Kilgore Falls:

  • Water heights can rise and fall depending on the season (and or recent rainfall), so be careful. Also, be aware and remember that this area is sort of a “swim-at-your-own-risk” kind of thing, since there are no lifeguards.
  • A single-track 1/2-mile trail leads from the parking lot to the falls. The trail is not handicapped accessible. You can’t bring any wheelchairs, large coolers, or baby strollers.
  • This area does not have any restrooms, grills, or picnic tables. You also can’t bring portable grills or use fires.
  • You’ll need to go across the Falling Branch stream if you want to go to the base of Kilgore Falls.

Summary Of 5 Best Maryland Lakes For Swimming

1Greenbrier LakeAppalachian Mountains
2Deep Creek LakeGarrett County
3Lake HabeebAllegany county
4Cunningham FallsThurmont
5Kilgore FallsPylesville

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About the Author

My education is in psychology and social anthropology, and I love watching nature documentaries. I have an overall passion for learning about wildlife wherever I can — both human and animal cultures alike.

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